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PRPA Board Unanimously Endorses ’100 Percent Renewable by 2030′

December 6, 2018

Wind turbines are seen at a wind farm in northeastern Colorado.

PRPA resource diversification policy caveats

The board recognizes the following advancements must occur in the near term to achieve the 2030 goal and to successfully maintain Platte River’s three pillars:

• An organized regional market must exist with Platte River as an active participant.

• Battery storage performance must mature and the costs must decline.

• Thermal, heat, water and end user available storage must be utilized.

• Transmission and distribution infrastructure investment must be increased.

• Transmission and distribution delivery systems must be more fully integrated.

• Distributed generation resource performance must be improved.

• Technology and capabilities of grid management systems must advance and improve.

• Advanced capabilities and use of active end user management systems must be in place.

• Generation, transmission and distribution rate structures must facilitate systems integration.

The renewable energy future that Platte River Power Authority has previously assured is coming is now officially part of the utility’s guiding documents.

The PRPA Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved a policy that calls for Platte River to pursue a 100 percent carbon-neutral energy portfolio by the year 2030.

Platte River Power Authority provides wholesale power to its owner cities of Loveland, Fort Collins, Longmont and Estes Park. Energy comes chiefly from the coal-powered Rawhide Energy Station north of Fort Collins, though PRPA also has renewable energy in its portfolio, and has announced plans to increase its wind energy capacity .

The new document, called the Resource Diversification Policy, states: “The board of directors (the board) directs the general manager/CEO to proactively work toward the goal of reaching a 100 percent non-carbon resource mix by 2030, while maintaining Platte River’s three pillars of providing reliable, environmentally responsible and financially sustainable electricity and services.”

Nine caveats, or prerequisites, for the goal to be achievable are included in the policy.

The policy notes that resource planning is an ongoing process, and Platte River continuously evaluates opportunities to add non-carbon resources. Platte River reviews its generation portfolio annually as part of the budgeting and planning process.

“The board recognizes the integration of non-carbon resources and new technologies will shape the future of Platte River’s and the four owner communities’ energy supply,” the document states.

On Tuesday, the Loveland City Council endorsed the policy via a 7-1 vote. Several members of council emphasized that the presence of the caveats made the policy, in their eyes, approvable.

On Thursday, Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh encouraged other PRPA board members to talk about the cost of pollution in terms of public health when discussing its move toward renewable energy.

“We say the environment, and that’s kind of impersonal,” Marsh said. “There’s a personal cost to people, and I’d like to see that incorporated in when we’re looking at what is the true cost.”

For Platte River, the resource planning process includes evaluating the progress of energy storage, distributed power sources and new technologies. They must submit an integrated resource plan every five years to the Western Area Power Administration.

Members of the Board of Directors noted the technological advancements needed to accomplish the goals outlined in the policy.

“This isn’t going to happen without a smarter grid,” said Estes Park director of utilities Reuben Bergsten, a board member.

“I appreciate everything that has gone into this, and I would also just like to point out that innovation clearly needs to be a part of this,” said Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell. “And it’s not just technology. It’s a lot of innovation in terms of regulatory structures and managing systems and more integration with distribution systems.”

“I think it’s a great policy for now, as far as taking two diverse viewpoints and being able to come together to establish a goal, recognize there are some really big obstacles,” said Longmont Mayor and PRPA Board member Brian Bagley. “I think it’s a great first step.”

Though the technology is still being pioneered, PRPA is not alone announcing their dedication to phasing in renewables.

Xcel Energy, a PRPA competitor which produces energy for millions of customers, announced Tuesday a plan to aim for zero-carbon electricity by 2050, and to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

“The company believes that its 2030 goal can be achieved affordably with renewable energy and other technologies currently available,” an Xcel Energy news release stated. “However, achieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are not cost effective or commercially available today. That is why Xcel Energy is committed to ongoing work to develop advanced technologies while putting the necessary policies in place to achieve this transition.”

PRPA General Manager Jason Frisbie stressed that the policy is not creating a “sea change” in how PRPA operates; it merely puts onto paper an idea that already was guiding assumptions and future planning at the company, and it will be viewed in light of the company’s triple bottom line of reliability, environmental responsibility and financial sustainability, Frisbie said.

A report issued by the United Nations’ panel on climate change in October described numerous tangible effects of a warming average climate worldwide that are predicted to be felt by 2040. The effects include food shortages, worsening wildfires, and a coral reef die-off.

Some members noted that the discussion of reducing carbon emissions will likely continue.

“I appreciate the discussion. It’s one all 7.5 billion of us are going to have to have over the next couple of decades,” Bagley said.

Julia Rentsch: 970-699-5404, jrentsch@reporter-herald.com

 

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